New York Looking to Improve on Possession Game Following Sunday's Loss to Earthquakes

Mike Petke and company will focus on the possession game this week ahead of Saturday's DC match

After Sunday night's loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke is heading into this week’s training sessions with the possession game in mind.

“The players that we have, we should be a possession team,” he said following New York’s 2-1 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium. “At the end of the day we have to really rethink if we’re going to be a possession team, because if we can’t be, or we refuse to be, then I’m going to bring on guys who can win head balls and just hammer the ball 60, 70 yards up every game, maybe get a flick on, and score.”

Petke’s frustration, and that of the Red Bulls as a whole, comes after New York watched a 1-0 lead slip away in the final minutes of Sunday’s match, on a night where possession mishaps allowed San Jose to rally back and steal three points.

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Midfielder Dax McCarty, although not satisfied by any means with the outcome of the match, believes improvement is needed just as much in the mental sector as it is in the possession end.

“You look back and you look at the flow of the games and you’re thinking, ‘Why didn’t we leave these two road trips with at least four points, maybe even six if we’re a little bit better in Portland,’” McCarty said. “It’s pretty mind blowing, but we can’t panic. It’s two games into the season, we haven’t even played a home game yet. So, I think we can take some positives out of the performance for sure. The last 10 minutes - it’s just got to be better mentally.”

Those positives, McCarty said, ranged everywhere from keeping San Jose’s goal-scoring machine Chris Wondolowski in check for the full 90 minutes, limiting the Earthquakes’ chances, playing with a more organized front of the defensive side for a majority of the match, and improving from the team’s outing in Portland.

Regardless, the team is aware it takes a full 90-minute effort to secure three points in this league.

“We’ve taken the lead two weeks in a row on the road, and we’ve given up two goals late, when last year our major problem was early goals,” said Petke. “Now we’ve corrected that, and we’re giving up late goals.”

“I thought we did well in the first half,” Petke added. “The second half, we actually did better than our second half last week, but I don’t know. We seem to like to sit back when we get the lead.”

On the bright side, after two consecutive weeks of coast-to-coast travel, New York can say goodbye to cross-country matchups for the better part of the season. The Red Bulls will not return to the Pacific Time Zone again until Aug. 25 when they take on Chivas USA, followed by the final west coast trip of the season on Sept. 29 against the Seattle Sounders.

Of course there’s no place like home, where the Red Bulls will look to turn things around Saturday against DC United in the home opener at Red Bull Arena (12:30pm ET, NBC). Last year, New York returned from two losses on the road at the start of the season to win the home opener against Colorado, 4-1. By season's end, the Red Bulls pieced together an impressive 11-2-4 regular season record at Red Bull Arena.

Get your tickets to the home opener now at Red Bulls Ticket Central, or by calling 877.RB.SOCCER.